An Epidemic of Drug Epidemics
Through the Years

Despite the hand-wringing, weeping and gnashing of teeth repeated through the decades over the current scary drug of the moment, none of these predictions of dire consequences and societal calamity ever come true. Society appears able to continue functioning and the vast majority of people using the drugs simply don't have much difficulty using the drugs without causing any harm -- to themselves or to anyone else. The only 'epidemic' visible here is the epidemic of hysteria concerning the use of various drugs. Clearly, we need to develop a vaccine to combat hysteria over drug use -- as that is certainly epidemic.

When It Comes to Drug Use
"Epidemic" Has Become a Meaningless Word

The problem is of staggering proportions. Dr. Judianne Densen-Gerber, founder and psychiatric director of New York's Odyssey House, a rehabilitation center for drug addicts, calls it an epidemic. The first young heroin users began appearing at her clinic only last June, she says. Today the traffic is more than Odyssey House can handle -- four to six junior junkies every day. To accommodate the overflow, Dr. Densen-Gerber has opened two branches solely for youthful addicts. One of her first applicants: a nine-year-old boy.

Source: Time, The Junior Junkie, Feb 16, 1970, On-line

Undaunted by the criticism that followed publication in April of their report on the adverse effects of marijuana, two Philadelphia psychiatrists last week strongly reiterated their case. Testifying in Washington before the Commission on Marijuana and Drug Abuse, Harold Kilansky and William Moore again insisted that pot can produce serious emotional disturbance, even psychosis, in young users with no history of psychiatric illness. This time the opposition was even better prepared. Seven psychiatrists, all prominent in the drug abuse field, vigorously denounced the anti-pot report. p.65

In addition, Kolansky appeared to dispute the widely held belief of drug experts that marijuana users do not generally escalate to heroin. "If nothing is done to strengthen marijuana enforcement," he said, "heroin addiction will become as epidemic in two years as marijuana is now." p.65

Source: Time, More Controversy About Pot, May 31, 1971, p.65

In support of the study, Dr. Kalonsky, at one juncture, testified -- "We feel that there would be much less heroin addiction today if the marijuana problem had been tackled two years ago, and, if nothing is done to strengthen marijuana enforcement now, heroin addiction will become as epidemic in two years as marijuana is now." p.68

Source: U.S. News & World Report, Marijuana Harmful? The Dispute Goes On, May 31, 1971, p.68

In his first two years in office, Richard Nixon considered drug abuse to be mainly a law-enforcement problem. To solve it, the President won passage of stiff new drug-control legislation, beefed up the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs in the Justice Department, ordered tightening of U.S. borders against drug inflow, and dispatched emissaries abroad to try to persuade other countries to tighten theirs. Such measures did little to stem the flood of drugs into urban ghettos and suburbs, however -- and no one could have foreseen the heroin epidemic currently sweeping the armed forces in Vietnam. Last week, Mr. Nixon announced a bold new approach to the problem. Proclaiming drug abuse the nation's public enemy No. 1, he called for an all-out offensive against the menace -- one that, for the first time, considers addiction primarily as a medical problem. p.32

Source: Newsweek, War on Drugs, Jun 28, 1971, pp.32-36

Drug addiction would seem to have little in common with smallpox. But according to Swedish Psychiatrist Nils Bejerot, the two scourges are remarkably similar. Though one is spread by example and one by a virus, both, he says, are contagious, epidemic diseases that can best be contained by quarantining their victims. To curb the spread of heroin and other hard-drug abuse, Bejerot proposes, the U.S. should establish compulsory, drug-free rehabilitation "villages" in secluded areas to keep addicts from infecting healthy nonusers.

Bejerot is a researcher in social medicine at Stockholm's Karolinska Institute and an expert on the drug epidemics that have occurred periodically in nations all over the world. In a New York Times interview last week, he insisted that contrary to popular belief, the role of pushers in epidemic addiction is secondary. It is primarily the users -- especially new users -- who spread drug abuse by persuading their friends to join them in their mindless pursuit of euphoric highs.

History shows that lenient methods of handling this kind of contagion are bound to fail, Bejerot says. In Sweden, for example, light penalties for drug offenders have done nothing to curb addiction. In Japan, on the other hand, authorities stamped out an amphetamine epidemic after World War II by instituting and enforcing a series of tough regulations: legal use of amphetamines was restricted to the treatment of just one disease (narcolepsy, which makes its victims fall asleep constantly); only one doctor per hospital was allowed to handle these drugs; and heavy prison sentences were imposed for possession and peddling -- thus preventing both abusers and sellers from spreading their "disease."

Source: Time, Quarantining Addicts, May 22, 1972, On-line

At a time when demands are growing for reduced penalties on use or marijuana and hashish, new evidence is coming out linking the drugs to both mental and physical disorders. As described in official testimony, research by U.S. and foreign experts indicates that marijuana and hashish may cause birth defects, psychological addiction, and sexual and other troubles. The experts presented their findings before the Senate Internal Security Subcommittee investigating what it terms a "cannabis epidemic" in the U.S. p.58

Source: U.S. News & World Report, The Perils of "Pot" Start Showing Up, Jun 10, 1974, p.58

Arguments against softening marijuana laws center mainly on the health hazards the drug is said to present. At hearings held by the Senate Internal Security Subcommittee in June 1974, many opponents of marijuana testified that its use is clearly dangerous. Some suggested that the "epidemic" increase in use may have been promoted by subversive groups bent on endangering the nation's security. p.37

Source: U.S. News & World Report, The Private Use of "Pot" -- A Growing Public Issue, Apr 28. 1975, pp.37-38

"Alcohol is now our No. 1 drug," says Dr. Ruth Rich, healthy educational specialist for the Los Angeles City schools." Ken Graham, assistant principal at Hillsdale High School in San Mateo County, says that "any time you have 50 per cent or more of the population using a drug like alcohol, you have a serious epidemic." p.28

Nor, in Mr Graham's view, is the epidemic confined to any group. "Increased use of alcohol and marijuana," he says, "seems to have little relationship with either poverty or affluence. We had wealthy parents with children having drug and alcohol problems, and we find poor parents in the ghetto with the same problems. It has nothing to do with money or race." p.28

Source: U.S. News & World Report, Alcohol and Marijuana Spreading Menace Among Teen-Agers, Nov 24, 1975, pp.28-30

Of all the drugs known to affect the mind, amphetamines come closest to producing the symptoms of paranoid schizophrenia. p.73

At about the same time, several epidemics of amphetamine abuse occurred in Sweden, Japan and the U.S., leading psychiatrists to identify the symptoms of "amphetamine psychosis." Controled studies showed that large doses of amphetamines produced all the hallmarks of paranoid schizophrenia -- hallucinations, loss of insight, and delusions. The basic findings cited to support the new theory are that (1) amphetamines can increase dopamine activity and (2) anti-schizophrenic drugs block the action of the dopamine. p.73

Source: Newsweek, Drugs and Schizophrenia, May 17, 1976 p.73

In fact, many psychiatrists and counselors view the epidemic as less of a problem than it appears. Smoking pot, they argue, may be a mark of normalcy in a middle-class culture that has widely legitimized the practice. They suggest parents should simply accept it as a rite of passage, as adolescent as acne and an inevitable part of a child's development. p.45

Source: Newsweek, New Look at Marijuana, Jan 7, 1980, pp.42-46

Stoned, strung-out and coked-up employees affect morale in the office, scare away customers and hurt the quality of the shirts you wear, the car you drive and the building you work in. Some experts even suggest that one reason the United States is losing its industrial leadership to Japan is that America's work force is so stoned. p.52

There is no mystery why: the drug-epidemic generation of 1965-78 is growing older and taking its life-style with it into the workplace. Employees are using a pharmacopeia of illegal drugs like marijuana, cocaine and PCP; abused prescription drugs like Percodan, Dilaudid and Quaaludes, and look-alike drugs like over-the-counter diet pills passed off as "Black Mollies" -- amphetamines. Alcohol is still the most abused drug, and its impact on industry cannot be minimized, but American business long ago recognized that problem and began taking steps to deal with it. pp.52-53

Though drug abuse is most likely to make the headlines when it involves Hollywood celebrities and sports stars, the problem is also epidemic among doctors, lawyers and other professionals in high-pressure, fast-paced work environments. ... But drug abuse is not just a by-product of life in the fast lane. Drugs are also used by multitudes of blue-collar workers to relieve the deadening boredom of menial jobs. Says Miriam Ingebritson, clinical director for a St-Louis-based consulting firm that provides drug-therapy services for IBM, the Cincinnati Reds and the city of St. Louis: "Frequently we find that it is not the exhilarating high that people are looking for, but rather to escape from tedium." p.54

Source: Newsweek, Taking Drugs on the Job, Aug 22, 1983, pp.52-60

Declaring a "national mobilization" on narcotics abuse, the President set forth a program last week that was long on exhortation and good intentions but a bit short on specifics and cash. Indeed, about the only concrete step he announced at a briefing for White House reporters was a call for mandatory drug testing for certain key federal workers, and even then the President did not spell out which ones.

Over the weekend, Reagan "led the way" by taking his test before undergoing what proved to be a routine urological examination. It was not the sort of event that provided the press corps with a photo opportunity, but it served to underscore just how serious the President is about tackling the nation's drug epidemic.

The President's plea for help at the grass roots has not gone unheeded. All around the country last week local officials moved against the drug epidemic. In Los Angeles, officials announced that they will put $500,000 into drug education in elementary schools. To protest the spread of crack in New York City, where drug-treatment facilities are filled to more than 110% of capacity, John Cardinal O'Connor led a candlelight vigil on the steps of St. Patrick's Cathedral.

Source: Time, Crack Down, Aug 18, 1986, On-line

In the five years since crack first appeared in the U.S., this cheap, powerful cocaine derivative has virtually shredded what was left of the tattered social fabric of the ghetto. The driving force behind the drug epidemic is not just the highly addictive nature of crack; many young hustlers never touch the stuff. They are drawn by the more enticing lure of fast money. "They can make $1,000 a week dealing," says Blair Miller of the Adolescent Dual Diagnosis Unit in Detroit's Samaritan Health Center. "These kids have no other skills. It's very hard to resist." In some cities, the crack trade may be one of the bigger job programs for youngsters.

Source: Time, Kids Who Sell Crack, May 09, 1988, On-line

When reports surfaced in the early 1980s that cocaine use by pregnant women could cause serious physical and mental impairment to their newborns, t was anther warning that the snowy white drug was not as harmless as some believed. Doctors found that cocaine, like heroin and alcohol, could be passed from the user-mother to the fetus with disastrous results. Since then the epidemic of cocaine-afflicted babies has only become worse. The main reason: growing numbers of women are using crack, the cheap and readily available purified form of cocaine that plagues America's inner cities and has spread into middle-class suburbs. p.85

Source: Time, Crack Comes to the Nursery, Sep 19, 1988 p.85

Crack, Bush said, is "turning our cities into battle zones and murdering our children." When Americans use cocaine he said, quoting Colombian President Virgilio Barco Vargas, they must realize they are "paying for murder." p.22

The speech, which got broadly favorable reviews except among congressional Democrats, was mostly remarkable for the fact that Bush had made it at all -- for many of his advisers believe the drug war is a political loser. Although Americans plainly want decisive action against cocaine, there is little sign of national consensus on the best way to beat the drug epidemic. Some want tougher law enforcement against cocaine trafficking, while others want stepped-up efforts to prevent cocaine abuse and treat its victims; a vocal minority, meanwhile, continues to argue for outright legalization. p.22

On the theory that recreational drug users are the "carriers" of epidemic addiction, Bennett is pushing for stepped-up civil and criminal sanctions by the state and federal governments, including the revocation of drivers' licenses, the cancellation of professional or occupational licenses and the denial of eligibility for federal grants, loans or contracts. But a Bennett aide denied that the drug czar somehow envisions "a police state." p.24

Source: Newsweek, Now It's Bush's War, Sep 18, 1989, pp.22-24

Last September, when President Bush launched a national campaign against drugs, massive attention was paid to it. Last week, when the President and drug czar William Bennett came forward with a nine-year progress report, the story got scant attention. p.32

The report itself was mildly encouraging, suggesting that the drug epidemic has peaked and may be heading down. Casual drug usage is clearly on a downward slope: The most recent survey of high-school seniors shows that "reported use in the past 30 days" has been cut in half over the past decade. And for the first time there is also evidence that addiction may be declining. The number of cocaine cases reported by hospital emergency rooms has dropped from a record of 11,302 in the second quarter of 1989 to 8,135 in the first quarter of 1990. p.32

Source: U.S. News & World Report, Scant Attention to Drug Fight, Sep 17, 1990, p.32

In California, methamphetamine use has reached epidemic proportions among teenagers, say drug experts. "You can go into any school in San Diego County," says Jack Hook, special agent with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in San Diego, "and ask what 'crystal' is, and many will be able to tell you, and also where to get it. That's how prevalent it is here." p.86

Source: Good Housekeeping, The New Suburban High, Sep 1995, pp.86-89+

In areas such as San Diego, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Phoenix, methamphetamine is starting to supplant cocaine as the drug of choice; emergency room episodes in these areas involving meth showed triple-digit increases between 1991 and 1994. The statistics also are alarming in Dallas, Denver and Seattle, and in parts of Utah, Idaho, Oregon and Wyoming, as well as farther east in Arkansas, Minneapolis/St. Paul, St. Louis and Atlanta. Nationally, methamphetamine-related deaths nearly tripled between 1991 and 1994, from 151 to 433. Drug Enforcement Administration chief Thomas Constantine calls the situation a "coming epidemic" p.50

Source: U.S. News & World Report, A new drug gallops through the West, Nov 13, 1995, pp.50-51

There are signs the crack cocaine epidemic, which has blighted neighborhoods and overwhelmed jails and prisons since the mid-1980s, may be waning. The Justice Department says urinalysis records of those arrested nationwide indicates a substantial decrease in the use of crack cocaine between 1987 and 1996 in cities including Detroit, New York and Philadelphia. But not all cities saw a decrease.

Two cities -- Omaha, Neb., and San Antonio, Texas -- did not appear to experience a crack epidemic of the size found in similar-sized communities. High rates of cocaine use among all arrestees persisted in some cities, including Atlanta, Phoenix and St. Louis, while the decline appears strongest on the East and West coasts.

The study indicates the crack epidemic is following a "natural course" from incubation to decline. In a prepared statement, Attorney General Janet Reno says, "This study shows that we are making progress on crack, but we can't let up now."

Source: United Press International, Crack epidemic may be waning, Aug 6, 1997 16:21:38 EDT

Not just in rural Maine: OxyContin is quietly becoming a dangerously popular drug in other pockets of the nation. In the new Orleans suburb of St. Bernard Parish, police say OxyContin abuse is an "epidemic." Officers are making as many arrests for the "killers," as it is known there, as for crack cocaine. p.47

Source: Time, The Potent Perils Of a Miracle Drug, Jan 8, 2001, p.47

Note from truth: the Anti-drugwar -- The irony of this was too good to pass up!

In light of what appears to be an epidemic of ADHD-some 3 million U.S. youngsters are believed to be afflicted with it and related behavior problems--pharmaceutical companies are locked in a fierce battle for what will soon be a $1 billion-a-year market for drugs treating the problem. New prescriptions for ADHD treatments have gone up more than 38% over the past five years, with 20 million prescriptions written in the past year. No longer do Ritalin and its generic knockoffs rule. Now there are more than half a dozen treatments, some of which last a whole school day, sparing kids the stigma of lining up at the nurse's office.

Source: Time, New Ritalin Ad Blitz Makes Parents Jumpy, Sep 10, 2001, On-line

While use of illegal substances like speed, heroin, and pot has declined over the past decade, according to a report issued three weeks ago by Columbia University's National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA), abuse of prescription drugs has increased sharply. CASA says about 2.3 million kids ages 12 to 17 took legal medications illegally in 2003, the latest year for which figures are available. That's three times the number in 1992, or about 1 out of every 10 teens. "It's a hidden epidemic," says Dr. Nicholas Pace, an internist at the New York University Medical Center. "Parents don't want to admit there's a problem out there." p.35

Source: Time, Trading for a High, Aug 1, 2005, p.35

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